Expectation usually clouds realism in England during the build-up to major tournament finals, but the Football Association’s appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager on Tuesday appeared perfectly designed to counter any hype.
Fabio Capello’s resignation in February, despite an unbeaten qualifying campaign, striker Wayne Rooney’s two-match ban, which rules him out of the first two matches, and a chronic lack of flair for next month’s European Championship have watered down optimism among fans.
However, rather than appoint Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, the red-hot favorite in the eyes of the media, the public and according to media reports several England players, the FA has gone for a safety-first option.
Redknapp’s man-management style and reputation for making an instant impact may have raised hopes of outsiders England threatening the likes of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands at next month’s finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Instead, the FA has gone for a much-traveled, multi-lingual 64-year-old Englishman, who according to chairman David Bernstein, could “walk into training grounds around the world and command instant respect.”
While his CV is excellent, particularly his time as manager of Switzerland in the 1990s and his transformation of Premier League Fulham from relegation candidates to Europa League finalists, Hodgson’s reputation is built on solid and methodical coaching principles rather than major silverware.
Then again, his eight domestic titles scattered around lesser leagues such as Sweden and Denmark compare favorably to the solitary FA Cup that Redknapp can boast despite his impressive reign at Tottenham, who flirted with a title challenge this year before falling away in recent weeks.
Hodgson, the first manager appointed by the FA with previous experience in an international role, will complete the season with West Bromwich Albion, where he has been for little more than a year.
He will then focus on how to make England a force at Euro 2012, where they must negotiate a group containing France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
With a shortage of tried and tested strikers, a lack of midfield creativity, no captain and a potential rift between first choice central defenders John Terry and Rio Ferdinand to address, time is very much of the essence.
It is a daunting task for a man who failed at Liverpool last season and there was no attempt to gloss over that fact at an FA news conference on Tuesday.
“We will always go into tournaments believing we can win because we are a major football nation,” Hodgson said. “It’s not going to be easy and it will be even more difficult on this occasion because the man who qualified the team has left and I’ve come in at a very late stage.”
“It’s very important everyone gets behind the team and gets behind the players. It’s a big job to win people over and the only way I can do that is by doing the job I know I can do,” Hodgson said.